The Intellectual Property Office recommends all businesses, big and small, regularly audit their intellectual property to ensure they are adequately protected.
1. Define Your WorkUnderstanding what IP you have within your business is vital to protecting it. For example, it is vitally important that you keep your patentable inventions secret at least until you have filed your application. However, keeping your company name a secret is obviously not advisable - the whole point of your brand is to get yourself known!
Make Use of the IPO's IP Equip tool for free to help you find out more about how IP relates to your business.
2. Do You Own It?A businesses website is often created by a website designer, an app by a software engineer, a logo by a graphic designer, or advertising material by a marketing agency. But if these creators are not part of your business, perhaps they’re a subcontractor or a friend, then you may not own what is being made for you. In these scenarios, and in the absence of employment or a contract stating ownership, copyright will stay with the creator.
To find out the common issues that exist for businesses and what you may be able to do about them, you can use the IPO's IP Health Check tool.
3. Did You Get There First?It’s not uncommon for a business to say, ‘I own my name, I’m registered at Companies House’. Now, although registering your company name at Companies House is very important, it is not, in fact, the thing that protects your name in trade - that is what a trademark is for.
You can search for your trademark on the IPO website for free!
4. Do You Plan of Selling AbroadIntellectual Property is often a regional right and can be treated differently from country to country. Your patents, registered trademarks and registered designs will only be protected in the countries in which you’re registered and granted those rights.
Copyright is recognised automatically in most other countries. This means that your copyright will usually have protection without registration from the moment you create it. However be careful, certain countries will have different rules to what exactly is covered by copyright, as well as how long such rights should last in certain circumstances.
The IPO have a series of country guides which can help you understand certain nuances in certain countries. They also have an attaché network in Brazil, India, South East Asia and China which helps UK businesses understand and develop their IP in those countries.